As I watched last night's US/China basketball match, I felt confused. On the surface, it looked like yet another conventional Olympic ball game between two nations. But I soon sensed that there was more to it than that. It seemed more like some kind of a weird religious process in which zealous missionaries were teaching a company of recently-ordained converts how to conduct the sacred rituals of a sect. As befits this kind of ceremony, enhanced with subtle symbols, the ancient priests wore white. Even their names were written in white letters on a white background, as if they weren't really meant to be read, but merely imagined... like the pronunciation of the holy name of Yahveh. The Chinese spectators encouraged their players by crying out the English word China. This same word appeared on their ritual garments.
In the congregation, George W Bush and his wife watched the proceedings. Earlier in the day, they had attended a protestant church near Beijing's Forbidden City, where the Chinese worshipers sang Amazing Grace in English and Chinese. Afterwards, the US president declared: "Laura and I just had the great joy and privilege of worshiping here in Beijing. You know, it just goes to show that God is universal, and God is love, and no state, man or woman should fear the influence of loving religion." The preceding day, he had already taped a message on this same theme: "This trip has reaffirmed my belief that men and women who aspire to speak their conscience and worship their God are no threat to the future of China. They are the people who will make China a great nation in the 21st century."
It goes without saying that these people will need to learn how to play basketball, eat hamburgers, drink certain ritual beverages, go to church on Sundays and express themselves in English.